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Bobcats Add Jefferson as Hawks Get Millsap in NBA Signing Start

The Charlotte Bobcats signed center Al Jefferson and the Atlanta Hawks added power forward Paul Millsap as free agents, leaving the Utah Jazz without their top two scorers from last season.

The National Basketball Association lifted its moratorium on completing trades and signings at 12:01 a.m. today and point guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers became the first free agent to officially finish a new deal.

When the NBA’s free agency period began on July 1, Paul had said he’d remain with the Clippers. All-Star center Dwight Howard said last week that he’d join the Houston Rockets after one season with the Los Angeles Lakers, though the Rockets have yet to officially announce that signing.

The Bobcats had the NBA’s second-worst record last season at 21-61 and President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins said the team is “ecstatic” with the addition of the 6-foot-10 Jefferson, who along with Howard were the only players to average at least 17 points and nine rebounds each of the past six years. Jefferson, a 2004 first-round draft pick, averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds a game for the Jazz last season.

“He gives us a low-post presence that we have not had on our roster and brings a skill set that does not become available very often,” Higgins said in a statement. “He is a veteran leader who helps his teammates get better, but at the same time he is only 28 years old so he can be part of the core of this franchise for several years to come.”

The Charlotte Observer said Jefferson received a three-year contract worth $41 million and is the biggest free-agent acquisition in Michael Jordan’s tenure as team owner.

Hawks’ Addition

The Hawks added Millsap, who averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds for Utah last season. A second-round pick in the 2006 draft, the 6-foot-8 Millsap had career averages of 12.4 points and seven rebounds over seven seasons with the Jazz.

“He embodies the intangibles we want to have in our program,” Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry said at a news conference. “From a hard-working toughness to a relentless competitor who cares about his team and competes every night. We’re excited to have him with us.”

Paul, a six-time All-Star, signed a five-year extension with the Clippers that ESPN has said is worth $107 million. He averaged 16.9 points and 9.7 assists a game last season, when the Clippers had a 56-26 record to win their division for the first time in franchise history, which dates to 1970-71.

The New York Knicks announced the acquisition of former No. 1 draft pick Andrea Bargnani from the Toronto Raptors for Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson and a first-round pick in 2016. The 7-foot Bargnani, 27, has averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 rebounds a game since being taken by the Raptors with the first pick in the 2006 draft.

Another Dimension

“Seven-foot versatile players with a good mid-range offensive game and an ability to stretch the other team’s defense are hard to come by in this league,” Knicks General Manager Glen Grunwald said. “Andrea has proven to be a quality scorer who adds another dimension to our team.”

The Knicks also re-signed 36-year-old guard Pablo Prigioni, who averaged 3.5 points, three assists and 1.8 rebounds over 78 games last season, when he became the first Argentine-born player in team history. Both the Bargnani and Prigioni deals had been reported previously.

Indiana re-signed free agent forward David West, a two-time All-Star who averaged 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds the past two seasons.

“We said when the season ended, bringing David back was our No. 1 priority,” Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird said in a statement. “He is a leader, he is a professional, he is a great competitor and he is the type of player and person you want on your team if you hope to be successful.”

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